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Decatur Diary | March 22, 2014

Mopping Up: UDO Stormwater meeting Wed., March 26

Stormwater | Wednesday, March 26 | 7-9pm | Decatur City Hall

As the densest city in Georgia, Decatur’s all too familiar with the challenges presented by stormwater. Clearly, our ability to grow and develop is crucial to many of our long-term community goals — from aging-in-place, to broader diversity, to supporting our schools and services with sound economic strategies — but that doesn’t make the water go away.

Enter the currently-underway Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which presents us a unique opportunity to refine our existing stormwater approach and inject it with greater flexibility and choice for city residents.

Here’s the basics on how stormwater regulation works: First, there are the minimum standards required by state and federal law. That’s the one-size-fits-all approach. Then, there’s the prospect of tailoring those mandated regulations to fit the realities of a particular place. That’s the approach Decatur has taken for many years.

Finally, there’s the option of going well beyond standard protocols and tailored solutions with stricter regulations targeting specific long-term outcomes. But this is a path city residents have repeatedly expressed they do not want to pursue.

Which leaves us with this: The UDO’s approach to stormwater will be neither less stringent than it currently is, nor more stringent. Instead, we’ll strive for smarter and easier.

Join us Wednesday, March 26, from 7-9pm at City Hall for the second of our UDO Drill-Down sessions. Members of the UDO engineering team will be on hand to present on Decatur’s stormwater challenges and how those challenges are currently managed. They’ll also have areas for community input on key unresolved questions associated with flexibility and choice:

  1. Trees. Trees aren’t currently recognized, at least in the code, for their ability to absorb water and contribute to stormwater reduction. This results in trees being periodically removed to allow for required stormwater retention systems, creating a scenario in which addressing one problem (retention) exacerbates another (tree canopy). Should the UDO rectify this?
  2. Green Infrastructure. A variety of low-impact, lower cost, green interventions — such as permeable concrete, grass-paving systems, rain gardens and cisterns — have reached the point where they’re now proven and recognized within state ordinances. Should Decatur add these approaches to its list of choices in how homeowners can meet requirements? Which green approaches do you prefer? Is there anything we haven’t thought of?

If you’ve got ideas or concerns about how our stormwater regulations can become smarter and easier, this is your opportunity to drill down. Please make time to join us.


Weigh In | Your Ideas Matter
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  1. Chris Billingsley says

    As I recall from attending previous commission meetings, the storm water fee/tax is collected from every property owner and business in Decatur. I believe the fund, now maybe millions of dollars, is “saved for a rainy day”. This is not a good use of the people’s money. I suggest that a discussion take place of a more prudent use of the storm water fee. We do not need any additional layers of storm water rules, whether it be tree or other green regulations. The money should be spend for a specific purpose designed by the city manager and approved by the commission on a yearly (?) basis or refunded to the taxpayers.
    But this is just my opinion. I’m sure the usual cheerleaders for bigger and more expansive/expensive local government will dominate the meeting. Oh well. Not sure if I can make it. American Idle is on and I can’t miss that!

    • Thanks, Chris. Your concerns are very consistent with what came out of the 2010 Strategic Plan process. That is, how stormwater impacts can be handled has evolved quite a bit since Decatur’s regulations were crafted. Property owners have pushed for more options — often those that cost less and require less infrastructure — to meet our broader goals of keeping stormwater from flooding everyone out. This session will explore ways to lessen individual burdens through more creative and innovative water management. Hope to see you!

  2. I believe that the stormwater code – specifically Chapter 42, Article V (Post Development Stormwater Management for
    New Development and Redevelopment) – should be revisited. It is my understanding that even if a homeowner has less than 40% impervious coverage they are still required to address stormwater retention issues (with a detention pond in their yard) if their lot has over 4,058 of feet of impervious landscape/etc. I have lived in two houses with larger lots in the City of Decatur and I believe that this penalizes large lot owners in the City. I agree that water management/control is very important but I think the City should consider making this a gradual scale rather than absolute # (i.e. 4,058 sq. feet).

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